I was surprised to hear the term “fundamentalist” used by some people to describe evangelicals. Most evangelicals do not even know what a fundamentalist is. It is actually a pejorative term that should not be used to describe evangelicals. Today’s evangelical churches have no resemblance in form and style with the evangelical churches of the 1960s or 1970s. Today’s Evangelicals have become “mainline” Christianity. The old mainline churches have lost their place of primacy to the evangelicals as the shapers of mainstream society.
In my experience of being a blend of pentecostal-evangelical-Lutheran, I kind of have my foot in both worlds and am familiar with both worlds. Post-modern evangelicals have a very acute understanding of what the post-modern world is about. They feel they are called to engage the world, e.g., social, political, financial. The New Evangelicals would repudiate separatism and anti-academia. The New Evangelicals do not want to return to the good ol’ days of Little House on the Prairie and Leave it to Beaver. In fact, they have no idea what it is. The new generation of evangelicals see themselves as post-modern, missional, prophetic, theologically-minded, and desire to make the practice of their faith and theology relevant to today’s post-modern age.
In today’s post-modern evangelical churches (or meeting places as some call it), their worship music, language, culture, and ways of speaking are so post-modern that one might even have to look twice to differentiate it from post-modern culture. I am not saying that the post-modern evangelicals condone a lax moral lifestyle. They definitely do not condone sinful lifestyles. Style must be differentiated from substance. Today’s evangelicals want to live out their lives “sold out” for Christ but they have the style of the post-modern culture. I think this is very Pauline, i.e., “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor.9:22, TNIV). As missional Christians, aren’t we all called to carry out the Great Commission?
After my wife came back from BreakForth in Edmonton, AB, I noticed in her a renewed passion for God and spiritual things of the Lord. It made me reflect and ask: “How much of what we learn in the classroom is really useful in the real world?” What I am learning in seminary does seem far away from the average layperson in the church. Sure, academic learning is useful for the mind; it does builds understanding. But in the real world of congregational ministry, is the theory/theology I learn going to really impact the average layperson? Perhaps to a certain extent pure knowledge may help them but to genuinely influence a person, one ought to have some spiritual depth within. An empty vessel is just an empty vessel. An empty vessel has nothing to offer others. It is only out that which comes from the abundance of one’s spiritual depth that will impact a person. People don’t care about how much we know. They care about how much we love and care about them.
As we ask God to fill us with more of the Holy Spirit and become more like Christ, and shape us more into his image, we will be more useful in the service of God. The Spirit calls each of us to be in a closer relationship with the Lord. As we connect with others, others will sense a spiritual depth within us and will cause them to become more hungry and thirsty for the presence of God. When our own spiritual “cup” is full, God’s presence will overflow out of its abundance. In this way, we may be the salt and light in this world. God calls the church to be in mission for others. The purpose and mission of the church can be empowered as each of us become like salt and light.
We celebrate the birth of Jesus who came to save the world and give a fresh start to all. Christmas is not about shopping at the malls for presents, buying and opening gifts, being with friends and family, a white “snowy” Christmas feeling, or even about singing Christmas carols. It is simply about the birth of Jesus Christ. No matter how we consumerize Christmas and hide the season behind a Santa Claus, reindeers, presents, or multi-colored lights, when it all comes down to it, and at the center of it , Christmas is about Jesus Christ. Have a Merry Christmas and a great new year in 2007.
Sermons preached from the pulpit are sometimes heard loud and clear, but most sermons are heard most loudly when it is done softly in the power of the Holy Spirit. Preaching empowered by the Spirit moves the heart and the soul to action, repentance, and submission to Jesus Christ. Dry intellectual-type of sermons like this overly-theological stuff on my blog doesn’t do much for the soul either. Finding the right balance is tricky sometimes. Perhaps a preaching style with a combination of John Wesley, Charles Finney… and Veggie Tales might work? (photo: Rev. John Wesley, a revivalist preacher)
How do we return back to some common sense? Secular society has become a God-less society rathering than a God-blessed society. It has rejected the logos, which makes possible our ability to grasp and shape reality, therefore, one’s technical reasoning becomes empty, and prone to corruption. Without the “revelation” from the logos, modern society cannot grasp values, meanings, structures and processes. Through modern philosophy’s rejection of classical reason and the logos in return for empty technical reason, society cannot possibly “reason” without the insight of “revelation”. Our modern secular philosophy has rejected classical reasoning (or ontological reason) in the classrooms. Theologians like Paul Tillich would likely say that we need to return to using classical reason in the classrooms. It’s easier said than done. Our secularized public university system has rejected religious philosophy and has “cleaned out” all concepts of the logos word in the name of emancipation–“freedom from religion” instead of “freedom of religion”. How tragic! How do we return to some common sense? We need to make incremental changes in the classrooms of society, and through prayer for our nation (and hope we don’t caught for praying publicly in a public place!). (photo: U.S. Supreme Court; Canadian Parliament)
Is power in and of itself bad? Why do we as a just society try to equalize power between the haves and have-nots? In our liberal-democratic society, power in the hands of the few will inevitably cause a clash between those who “have” and those who do “not have” access to power or the leverage to power. Historian Lord Acton (1834-1902) issued epic warnings that political power is the most serious threat to liberty. Acton observed that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases. He states: “Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end…liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition…The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to to govern. Every class is unfit to govern (rich or poor)…Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said Lord Acton. After the “have-nots” in Russia and China gained power and put the Communist Party in power, the working class Proletariats began to abuse their power by violating the most basic human rights of even ordinary people; millions died (conservative estimates of 5-10 million in Russia, and 15-30 million in China). Whether one is the pope, religious leader, or president of a multinational corporation, one must be aware of and accept one’s own limitations. No one is free from potential corruption because of ‘original sin’ or concupiscence that resides in each person. We are so curved inward that our self-centeredness eventually gets the best of us. If we are so privileged to hold political power–whether religious, social or economic–we must recognize that people will one day fall short of the mark. Thus, true humility is a personal virtue and a virtue for one’s whole community. (photo: Lord Acton)
Why do Christians relegate justice issues to the backburner? Social justice issues like looking out for the marginalized in society as the psalmist speaks of in Psalm 82:3-4 show the importance of the environment, administering justice to the weak, the orphan, the needy, and protecting the rights of the lowly, and the destitute. God will issue judgement upon the rulers as Psalm 82:1 shows us. The word for judge “shafat” in Hebrew is in the imperative, which has connotations implying: “do it!” God seems to take it seriously. If so, will our political leaders be held accountable by God to the injustices people suffer even today? Will Christians also be held responsible? If we all start to take responsibility, individually, and corporately as churches, we can make a more just, fair, and equitable society, even without government intervention. (see thepeaceplan.com) (bottom: These lovely women in Llappa, Peru are fighting against the gold mining companies’ destructive mining practices which is destroying their farmland and drinking water with toxic chemicals. Their sole source of income and health is being jeopardized without any compensation, or acknowledgment from the Peruvian government)
How do we experience a personal reformation? By hearing the teaching, the preaching and by experiencing the sacrament of the living word who is Jesus Christ. This has been my personal experience. As one hears the living active word, the Holy Spirit awakens faith within a person’s spiritual inner being. The Holy Spirit arouses our inner spirit-being to be regenerated, bringing new life. One will never be the same again. This is what Martin Luther calls regeneration; today’s evangelicals call it being “born again”. Luther actually said: “It was like I was born again.” Though some Lutherans will deny that regeneration is not the same as being “born again”, it really is the same thing but using different words. It is all semantics; however, the evangelical definition of “born again” has connotations of evangelicalism. Thus, Lutherans seem to want to keep the definition of “regeneration” distinct–but it is actually the same thing. Evangelicals have an easier time pointing back to an experience they can remember; whereas, Lutherans are called to “remember their baptism” as a continual everyday thing. (see my posting on Dec. 28, 2006) [photo: Watchman Nee who in 1952 was imprisoned for his faith, tortured and beaten black & blue; he remained in prison until his death in 1972. His words remain an abundant source of spiritual revelation and supply to Christians throughout the world.]